It has been a few weeks since I finished my work with kids on their reading skill at the STREETS Smarts summer camp. I am not sure who learned more, the kids or me. I worked with twenty-three students during the camp and all of the students either maintained or increased their reading levels. I knew the ability to read well was important, but I am not sure if I fully understood how strong an indicator reading on grade level for the third grade was to a student’s future success. Working with students on their reading skills taught me two things: All children want to learn and succeed if given the opportunity; literacy is crucial to their future success.
I think I took for granted the ability to read and comprehend what I am reading. I do not recall learning to read or struggling with the task. Books and reading have always been a part of my life and I recall having many books in my room growing up and visiting the library with my mom to find new books to read. As I learned more about literacy, I discovered the following incredible statistics:
• The average books per child in low income communities is 300 children to 1 book;
• By three years of age, poor children have heard 30 million less words than wealthy children;
• 65% of fourth graders read at or below level and four times more likely to drop out of school.
If I were just calculating the ROI of my time helping one student achieve or maintain their reading level, it is estimated that one high school drop-out costs our economy more than $300,000 over their lifetime in lost revenue tax, welfare and incarceration costs!
I truly enjoyed the time I spent reading along and working with the students during the STREETS Smarts summer camp and know that it was time well spent and cannot be measured in dollars. I would highly recommend for anyone to spend time as a mentor teaching kids to read, because I am sure you will love the experience and make a difference.